Speaking at the Oxford Union in 2016, Mr Bloomberg said: “I could teach anybody, even people in this room, no offense intended, to be a farmer.
“It’s a process. You dig a hole, you put a seed in, you put dirt on top, you add water, up comes the corn. You could learn that.”
Since then, he said, the US has transitioned to the information economy, where “the skill sets that you have to learn are how to think and analyse, and that is a whole degree level different.”
The reaction to the resurfaced comments was fierce, with social media users deriding Mr Bloomberg’s ignorance about farming methods and pointing out his status as a city-dwelling billionaire unfamiliar with modern farming methods.
It is just the latest backlash that the former New York mayor has faced in the last two weeks over his past statements.
First came an outcry against his defence of stop-and-frisk policies that targeted minorities. Then came a row over a video in which he said that the racist lending practice known as “redlining” had in fact helped prevent Americans of colour from taking on bad credit.
His comments on farming are expected to be a problem for him in certain swing states where agriculture is a major part of the economy, among them the crucial state of Wisconsin.
Farmers work with astonishingly sophisticated information technology every day. But I suspect Mike Bloomberg doesn’t know a lot of people with modern combines. https://t.co/ftY2wmfFPc— Felix Salmon (@felixsalmon)February 16, 2020
AYFKM. So profoundly misunderstands (and disrespects!) agriculture and farmers, I don’t even know where to start. Yet another reason this plutocrat is NOT an acceptable candidate. 🤬 https://t.co/9uy8xKya9k— Gwen Pearson (@bug_gwen)February 17, 2020
Billionaire Bloomberg claims he “could teach anybody to be a farmer,” even implying that farmers don’t have the same level of “skillset” or “grey matter” as folks in tech jobs.
So demeaning, elitist, and out-of-touch it's appalling. pic.twitter.com/Auplmdq56m— Anna Kelly (@AnnaKellyWI)February 17, 2020
— John Kass (@John_Kass)February 17, 2020
However, some have argued that however distasteful Mr Bloomberg’s past comments and policies may be, they should not disqualify him as a presidential candidate.
Writing in The Atlantic, Columbia University professor John McWhorter wrote that while he “fails the wokeness test,” Mr Bloomberg is better placed than other candidates to deny Donald Trump a second term.
Since announcing his campaign for the Democratic nomination for president, Mr Bloomberg has ploughed tens of millions of dollars into his campaign, in some states outspending the rest of the candidates combined.
He has not competed in the early primaries, and is instead hoping to make a dramatic entry into the race on 3 March, known as “Super Tuesday”, when 14 states vote at the same time.